Would you like the experience of seeing a manatee in it’s natural habitat? The adventure begins in Naples, Florida with Captains Barry and Carol aboard one of their eco boats. See Manatees Guaranteed offers fascinating 90-minute tours into a remote manatee hideout in the Everglades. They offer an opportunity for an up-close and personal visit with these amazing, gentle creatures. See Manatees Guaranteed’s accommodate a maximum of six passengers on each of their fully covered boats. Reservations are required; 239.642.8818 or www.see-manatees.com
Florida, or West Indian Manatees can be found in Florida’s shallow, slow-moving rivers, estuaries, saltwater bays, canals and coastal areas. There are an estimated 1,865 currently in Florida. Florida was declared a manatee sanctuary in the 1700s, and hunting manatees was prohibited. Even though manatees are protected, powerboats remain the greatest threat and sadly each year many die due to injuries from accidental collisions with boats; this is why it is so important to mind “No Wake” or “Slow Manatee” zones when operating a boat on Florida’s waterways.
Manatees, also known as sea cows, are large, gentle and slow-moving gray-brown aquatic mammals with bodies that taper to a large flat, paddle-shaped tail. They have two flippers with three to four nails on each, and their head and face are wrinkled with whiskers on the snout. These gentle giants can grow to 12 feet in length, weigh up to 3500 pounds, and may live to be 50 years old!
Most of the manatees’ time is spent eating, resting, and in travel. They are complete herbivores whose diet consists solely of aquatic plants and sea grass. Manatees can consume 10-15% of their body weight daily in vegetation – a rate of 100 pounds a day! They graze for food along the bottom and on the surface between 6-8 hours a day and eat by using their divided upper lip, which is very flexible, to grasp and take in aquatic plants. Just like dolphins, whales and seals, manatees are air-breathing marine mammals and must periodically surface for air. Manatees may rest submerged at the bottom or just below the surface, coming up to breathe on the average of every three to five minutes.
Here’s a fun fact; the manatee’s closest relative is the elephant and the hyrax (a small furry rodent-like animal).